I’ve always been big into giving. I’m pretty sure it’s because my Mother always did a good job of instilling those mantras and verses in me: “It’s better to give than receive,” and “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.” I was always giving notes, presents or food to my classmates, relatives, neighbors and friends. And back then, it probably wasn’t a bad quality to have.
Into adulthood, my giving took on a compulsive quality. I once gave my babysitter my entire dining room furniture set because she needed more stuff to sell at her yard sale. On a routine visit to a physician, a nurse told me that she liked my favorite starfish diamond earrings, so I took them off right there and gave them to her. Another babysitter told me that she liked my skirt, so I proceeded to go change and give her my favorite aquamarine peasant skirt (one of the few items of clothing I owned in which I felt like my “authentic” self).
Recently I was traveling to California to visit some friends so I picked up an enormous bottle of lemon-infused olive oil from the Queen Creek Olive Mill because, well you know, everyone needs a gargantuan-sized glass bottle of olive oil from the desert! The TSA folks said, “No can do,” and swiftly confiscated that beautiful oil that had such a perfect glistening of the tiny citrons. This episode got me thinking about what kind of energy had gone into that purchase. Was I giving from my heart? Did I feel like I had to buy something for these people? Were my actions inspired by love, generosity or friendship?
My realization was that my over-giving had become a mindless habit–rote and habitual and nothing special.
A couple of years ago I became a certified yoga teacher at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad. The program I learned is called The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga and is based on a book by Dr. Deepak Chopra called, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. The basic premise is that every day is associated with a law or principal of nature and the universe. Monday is the law of giving and receiving. The universe operates through dynamic exchange. . . giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.
Learning to embody these universal principles in my everyday life has taught me that all my years as an over-giver was out of balance. Maybe I was giving so that people would like me? Or perhaps I had established an addictive pattern of behavior? Either way, my giving was not conscious or inspired most of the time. I did not give with meaning, discernment or even love. I was just giving to be giving–the opposite of truly mindful behavior.
This holiday season, I have cut way back on giving stuff. And I dare say that I am giving more than I ever have. I’m writing more poems (heck, I’m writing THIS which is a miracle in itself) and giving more hand made gifts. More importantly, I am giving only when I feel truly inspired by love. Perhaps there is a certain awareness that comes with age? An awareness that learns to listen to the subtle promptings of the heart and emotions…for me this awareness is teaching me that sometimes less is more.
So, as is always true in this beautifully balanced and mysterious universe we live in, an extraordinary author showed up in my life in perfect time–Amanda Owen. And what does she write about (I bet you can guess)…how to receive! In her first book, The Power of Receiving, Amanda gives us a revolutionary approach to giving ourselves the life we want and deserve. We were born to be receivers–through which all good will flow. What a concept!
In her latest book, Born to Receive: 7 Powerful Steps Women Can Take Today to Reclaim Their Half of the Universe, coming out in March 2014, Amanda helps us learn to pay attention to our own needs as much as our constant doing for others and pleasing them. Her research over the last twenty years into the nature of receptivity, along with her studies in such diverse areas as quantum theory and Buddhism, has led her to develop a system that helps people create the lives they want.
I watch as so many of us give to our neighbors, children, friends and employers. We give until there is nothing left to give–often times without every pausing to allow Spirit to fill us back up through those activities we love. As someone wise once said, “You cannot give what you do not have.” I’ve learned that taking care of myself and tapping into Spirit through meditation, yoga or nature is what fills me up. And if I take time for these simple activities, I am certainly a more generous (and sane!) giver and receiver.
My wish for us all this holiday season is that we learn to live in balanced bliss. That we’d learn to give from the very depths of our hearts and receive the beautiful gifts that God and the universe have in store for us all. Merry Christmas!